Class Acts: Priyanka Reddy

Design by Priyanka Reddy. Models Sheridan Young and Maggie Hennessey. James Byard/WUSTL Photos.

Posted by Liam Otten April 18, 2016


Kalamkari is one of the world's oldest textile traditions. Combining the Persian word for pen with a Hindi/Urdu word for work or craftsmanship, these lavish fabrics are painstakingly painted, printed, and embroidered by hand.

For Priyanka Reddy, a fashion design major in the Sam Fox School, kalamkari was both an inspiration and a challenge. Could such extravagant treatments be incorporated into contemporary pieces?

"I was really drawn to the detail and intricacy," says Reddy, a Barbara Paton Bridgewater scholar who has traveled to India to study block printing and textiles. "But I also wanted to modernize it."

For her thesis collection, which will debut April 24 as part of the Sam Fox School's 87th Annual Fashion Design Show, Reddy fuses kalamkari techniques with structures and silhouettes inspired by minimalist architecture. The results, executed in raw silk, are characterized by clean lines, rich surfaces, and warm, desaturated colors.

"The palette is more muted than traditional Indian tapestries," says Reddy, who has interned with Derek Lam, Rosie Assoulin, and fellow Sam Fox School alumna Jennifer Behr. Bright reds and golds are softened to pinks, peaches, and sand—yet Reddy retains the rigorous attention to texture, layering, and artisanal embellishment.

"I call it 'postmodern kalamkari,'" she says with a smile. "I wanted to juxtapose detail in surface treatment with minimalism in shape to create stimulating, beautiful pieces."